From loss to Life
Trying to find answers or meaning in death is like trying to draw out light from darkness. Instead I needed to refocus my attention on the light—on Love.
When I was a young girl, I would often spend time with my father looking up into the stars at night, pondering the grandness of God. We would lie on our backs in silence, reveling in our awe of the sky—a window granted into an infinite universe. In moments like these, I felt especially close to my father, possibly because we felt so close to God together. The memory of those nights has stayed with me and continues to teach me valuable lessons about the power of humility to reveal a glimpse of infinite Life.
An understanding of Life as God suddenly became imperative when my father passed on unexpectedly, presenting me with the greatest challenge I’d ever faced. After months spent oscillating between prayer and much struggle, I ultimately found that praying about loss and grief is really about uncovering another story: one that reveals that right where pain and loss seem to be, there is an open door to joy and transformation.
An immense spiritual effort is required to navigate the human story of death. I found this most wonderfully expressed in a statement by Mary Baker Eddy that has guided me unfailingly: “The heavenly intent of earth’s shadows is to chasten the affections, to rebuke human consciousness and turn it gladly from a material, false sense of life and happiness, to spiritual joy and true estimate of being” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 21).
There is only one infinite stream of Life, in which we all exist continuously.
Even though I did not see it in the beginning, what Mrs. Eddy unfolds to us is the fact that there is only one infinite stream of Life, in which we all exist continuously—we cannot leave it. An estimate of life as material and mortal suggests that we can become disconnected and isolated from this stream. However, in spite of the pervasive notion that mortality is the nature of our existence, the struggles in human life can humble and nudge us to recognize immortality as our true life. In this sense, human suffering invites us to both go higher and dive deeper.
During the first months after the loss of my father, I feared that I had lost a part of my own identity as well as a palpable connection to divine Life. Despite daily prayer and a supportive environment, I slipped into paralyzing depression. The heaviness and darkness seemed inescapable. Still, beneath the mental battle, I knew that through turning to God with my whole heart, I would find a new path. I was exhausted from a constant sense of loss and felt ready for a complete renewal of my understanding of Life.
The journey toward greater spiritual understanding required me to renegotiate how I was handling my perception of the past. Bubbling up at any moment, memories of events from the past try to explain grief, justify depression, or reiterate loss. These impositions can threaten our progress.
To the human mind, depression seems to be an inescapable condition. But God, the divine Mind, never stops calling us Spiritward. For several weeks after my father passed on, my mother and I took up different spiritual concepts as guidelines for our prayers. During the first weeks, our theme was mental watchfulness. As I struggled with the heavy depression, I practiced being more watchful of my thought.
Before I began watching my thinking, I had been allowing depression to make me feel separate from God, divine Life. I realized that depression could not be imposed upon me, despite all the popular testimony claiming otherwise. I was not a victim, but an agent who could choose whether or not I allowed depressing thoughts to control me. God, Love, had stayed the same the whole time, and now was gently asking me to shift my perspective so I could see this fact more clearly. This insight did not heal all symptoms of depression in one fell swoop, but it presented the first step toward healing.
Although the heaviness of depression started to lift in the next months, a recurring grief and an unshakable feeling of loss still seemed like regular visitors. One night, I knelt on the floor in anguish, reaching out to God for an answer. And an answer came gently and clearly, as it always does when we earnestly reach out. As if God were redirecting my thinking, I was reminded of something my father had said to me: “You only overcome death through Love. You just love.”
For a long time, I had not fully understood this statement, but in that moment, it was clear. When watching the stars with my father, if I tried to find light in the dark space around the stars, it would never yield any shape or form. Similarly, I realized I was trying to find meaning and answers in death and despair. But being inherently insubstantial, these only led me to feel more lost and enveloped by darkness. The answer was Love, which is spiritual and enduring and the only real substance, shape, or form.
Trying to find answers or meaning in death is like trying to draw out light from darkness. So, the next step was to refocus my attention on the light—on Love—to understand how God’s grace creates constellations of meaning and spiritual connection in our lives.
It is impossible to find an answer to loss while trying to figure out why death occurred. But by readjusting my focus and actions on Love, I realigned myself with true substance and Life so
I could experience the fathering qualities of God. I learned that I could find the infinite, spiritual individuality of my father only when I looked to our infinite Father-Mother God, Spirit. As the Psalmist affirms, “With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalms 36:9).
In her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, Mrs. Eddy wrote of her own family history, which included several tragic events—such as the death of her first husband, the taking away of her only child, an unhappy second marriage, and almost constant invalidism—before she discovered Christian Science. But after describing these events, she wrote, “The human history needs to
be revised, and the material record expunged” (p. 22). Knowing that her words came from her own wrestling with a harrowing past, I felt I had found a trusted instruction to follow.
We can overcome death every day by conquering any belief in finiteness.
To revise something is to alter it, often in light of further information. Over the following months, when I struggled with memories—either sad ones that created fear, or happy ones that created nostalgia—I would often tell myself to “revise and expunge.” Having learned that only what expresses Love and Life constitutes true experience, I would then work to let go of what did not express Love and Life and to keep what did, thus exchanging a tragic memory for the opposite, the spiritual truth. I found that this process, just like revising a paper or a book, took discipline and humility. It also brought peace, strength, and the deepest joy. And these are what have stayed. Today, I am free of grief and depression and feel the gentle invitation for a closer walk with God.
A good friend of mine once told me that we can actually overcome death every day by conquering any belief in finiteness. I learned this through the many gentle ways in which God shepherded me through each dark valley in this experience. And now I feel certain that God always answers when we ask, and that the door is always opened when we knock. My closeness to my father continues to deepen, through closeness to our Father, in beautiful ways, and a spiritual joy and lightness have been restored.